To the Editors:

We read in the July issue of the newsletter USSR News Brief (Munich, K. Lubarsky) about the fate of two Russian Christians. The brothers Alexey Anatolievich (born in 1965) and Vladimir Anatolievich(born in 1966) Shatskii, residents of the Krasnolipye village, Repyevsky district, Voronezh’ region are members of Catacomb Orthodox Church. In January 1987 they were drafted in the army. The members of Catacomb Church consider service in the army, in particular such things as kissing the red banner, taking the oath and the like to be contrary to their religious principles. In the USSR as you may know there is no alternative service for those whose religious or other views do not allow them to fulfill their military duty.

On January 22, 1987, the Shatskii brothers were arrested and sentenced under article 80 of the Criminal Code of the R.S.F.S.R. (Refusal to serve in the army) to three years in a labor camp. In July 1988 they were transferred from the camp for refusing to work to a prison in Yelets town, Lipetsk’ region.

All Soviet prisons are known for the severity of their regime. The prisoners are kept in locked cells for twenty-three hours a day; personal visits and parcels are forbidden. They are starving and are not allowed to buy more than five rubles worth of food per month. They have no right even to send more than one letter per month.

But Yelets’ prison has a particularly bad reputation. We have a witness, the famous Soviet dissident K. Podrabinek, who has spent two years there (Das Land und die Welt, 3, West Germany, 1988). According to him, the administration of the prison forces one part of the inmates to be executioners for others. A new prisoner is being locked with those who are told to “teach the new one.” They beat him up at any moment, without reason, night or day. They rape him. They subject him to torturous humiliating acts. They shove him in a bag (mattress cover), tie it and hang it on the wall. They tie him down to the bunk, for days or weeks. They bend him over and shove his arms and legs into the sleeves of a prisoner’s jacket. Burn him with cigarettes.

The prisoner, if he is not an executioner himself, works in the cell from sun-up to sun-down and often after sun-down. When he works slowly, they beat him. When he does not want to give up his food, when he refuses to take a part in beating someone also, they beat him.

In consideration of all of the above we are concerned about the fate of these two young Christians and we plead with you to intercede for Alexey and Vladimir Shatskii and to do whatever possible to ease their fate.
Lilya and Fyodor Finkel
Boston, Massachusetts

This Issue

March 16, 1989